Bangor’s First Auto Fatality Stirred Controversy In The City
Bangor's first auto fatality killed a 10-year-old boy and was also a hit-and-run. Even though the driver was found, he wasn't charged. Whose fault was Bangor's first auto fatality?
In 1908 a 19-year-old chauffeur of a wealthy local man was driving down State St. in Bangor as it began to grow dark. The driver, Harold Colby, was reportedly going 20 mph in the posted 8 mph zone, and due to unknown reasons his acetylene headlamps had not been lit. As he approached the area of State St. where The Coffee Pot sandwich shop was and what is now All Saints a group of young boys were walking along the street on the sidewalk.
Suddenly 10-year-old Freddie O'Conner decided to cross the street and darted in front of the oncoming auto. Because it was after 8 p.m. and the streets were not well lit Freddie had not see the car with no lights and just barely missed being run over.
What happened next has never been explained, and probably never will be. After just missing being run over Harold began to accelerate again and as he did Freddie was back in the road. The 35 hp, five-passenger Pope Hartford hit Freddie who was later pronounced dead at the hospital.
Shaken up and unsure of what to do, Harold left the scene and drove the car to the garage where it stayed for the night. Soon everyone in Bangor was looking for the person who had killed Freddie and it didn't take long to find the one car (of very few) with a broken headlamp.
Here is where things get questionable. Eyewitness reports varied and some accused Harold of reckless driving and for killing the boy. Other's felt it was the fault of Freddie's and could not have been avoided by Harold. Harold was officially charged with involuntary manslaughter and spent one night in jail. He posted $2,000 bail and plead not guilty.
The accident soon became the talk of the town and seven months later Harold was the center of attention in a packed court room. There he was found not guilty on Feb. 12, 1909. Most of Bangor celebrated the release of the young man though some speculated he only got cleared of all charges because of his wealthy boss and a good lawyer.
We will never know what actually happened to cause Bangor's first fatality. What do you think?